The rise of the tea-party movement heartened many libertarian conservatives, who saw it as leading the Republican Party away from social conservatism.While the impetus for the tea party's formation and the primary public focus it places is on reducing the size and scope of the federal government, the presumption that those self-identified as belonging to the tea party movement are more distinctly libertarian than the broader base of Republican voters doesn't seem to be clearly substantiated by the actual data. Taken from a Pew Research survey on tea party voters, the following table compares the percentages of self-identified tea party members from the rest of the Republican electorate on red meat economic and social issues:
|Issue||Tea party||Other GOP|
|Prefer smaller government||88%||80%|
|Government almost always wasteful||87%||79%|
|Corporations make too much profit||30%||37%|
|Favor same-sex marriage||26%||24%|
|Abortion should be illegal in most/all cases||59%||56%|
|Better border security should be a priority in dealing with illegal immigration||51%||45%|
|Protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership||78%||72%|
With the exception of same-sex marriage, for which tea partiers are marginally more supportive than the rest of Republican voters are, tea party types are generally more conservative versions of the GOP electorate. Pew didn't query respondents on their foreign policy views, but I suspect tea partiers also tend to be more hawkish on Iran and more firmly supportive of Israel than other Republican voters are.
As summarized by Pew in the aforementioned report:
Tea Party supporters tend to have conservative opinions not just about economic matters, but also about social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In addition, they are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues. And they draw disproportionate support from the ranks of white evangelical Protestants.Secondly, from Bell:
Mr. Bell, for his part, sees in social conservatism opportunities for the GOP to expand its appeal among minority communities. "Latino voters tend to be more socially conservative," Mr. Bell says, noting that in 2008 they backed California's Proposition 8, which overturned a state Supreme Court ruling establishing same-sex marriage, by 53% to 47%. Non-Hispanic whites narrowly opposed the measure.Nothing stated here is explicitly incorrect, but there are problems by way of omission. Blacks voted for Proposition 8 by a 70%-30% margin, so by Bell's logic, blacks should be riper targets for Republican conversions than Hispanics are. But most (though not all) conservative pundits, including Bell and Taranto, know better than that.
Further, to point to Hispanics voting a whopping 4 points to the right of a leftist white electorate (whites opposed Prop 8 51%-49%) like California's as evincing a major opportunity for the Republican party is just silly.
Bell also expresses sympathy for the WSJ's view that immigration restrictionism hurts the Republican party... by turning Hispanics away from it, of course--no one appears to care or have anything to say about how it will affect the much more consequential white vote. In neighboring Arizona, however, where white voters are considerably further to the right than California's whites are (only 40% of white Arizonans voted for Obama, while 52% of white Californians did), Hispanics voted in favor of Proposition 202, which increased penalties on those employing illegal immigrants, by 56%-44%, a level of support just 4 points to the left of white Arizonans. While restrictionism won't win over a naturally hostile voting bloc, the evidence shows again and again that it doesn't do much, if anything, to repel them, either.